8 Cars With the Best MPG for 2014

Source: Thinkstock

All things considered, Americans’ penchant for gas-powered vehicles is bordering on irrational. Just glance at the biggest suppliers of U.S. petroleum and you encounter a Who’s Who of countries you don’t want to deal with in a tough spot. Sure, Canada (first) is the nice guy next door, but Saudi Arabia (second), Venezuela (fourth), and Russia (fifth) represent the biggest foreign policy headaches conceivable for the U.S. State Department.

Ad campaigns by oil companies and automakers may sound great, but the bottom line is transportation consumes more oil than any other sector in the United States combined, and the effects on the planet have become devastating. Consumers don’t have to feel helpless in light of these facts. There are more options in efficient automobiles than ever before with affordable electric vehicles and hybrid cars getting a fair shake. To get the electricity they need efficiently, the natural gas boom is providing a power source to charge car batteries with much lower emissions than coal-fired plants. If you want to, there are ways to stop using so much gasoline.

Of course, the most winning argument for going green is for saving money while saving resources. Climate change doubters — basically, one in two members of the Republican party — continue to exist despite the evidence to the contrary. Hopefully for everyone, they’ll agree it’s better to spend less money and allow the collateral benefits to arrive along with their savings. With that goal in mind, here are the eight best cars in terms of fuel economy for 2014, separated by vehicle class and ranked by the EPA in combined mpg or the electric vehicle equivalent (MPGe).

Note: Along with each car is the estimated amount of money you can save over a period of five years driving the vehicle, along with its MSRP before destination charge but after federal EV rebate (when it applies). Also included is the amount of money you can save on fuel costs compared to the average 2014 vehicle in its class.

ToyotaPriusV

8. Prius V (42 mpg): Best Midsize Wagon

The Toyota Prius V is the only car that topped its class without a full electric powertrain. You can’t plug in the hybrid Prius V, but its combined electric and gas motors deliver 44 highway and 40 city mpg to hit the best-in-class 42 mpg combined. At around $2 to drive 25 miles, calling the Prius V an affordable family car is a gross understatement. It’s no ficitonal estimate, either. Prius owners have verified the car’s performance above 40 mpg in real-world driving.

Cost to buy: $26,750
Savings over 5 years: $5,500

Tesla (7) (640x360)

7. Tesla Model S (95 MPGe): Best Large Car

It’s safe to say the Tesla Model S has had an earth-shattering  impact on the auto industry. One could say they made electric vehicles sexy overnight with a combination of brute force, good looks, and advanced technology. The Model S is just a hot car that happens to run on electric power. Now that the automaker has made its impact, Tesla is looking to advance the EV industry on a larger scale. If (when) the company can deliver its sub-$40K electric car, the word “revolution” is going to become a cliche in the auto press.

For now, Tesla will have to settle for having the Model S collect all the awards and the distinction as the most efficient large car on the market. The base model with 60 kWh battery pack can get 95 MPGe (94 city MPGe) and travel over 200 miles before needing a charge. It costs $1.05 per 25 miles if you charge at home, but most Model S owners know where local charging stations are located.

Cost to Buy: $62,570
Savings over 5 years: $8,750

2012-Ford-Focus-Electric-motion-view

6. Ford Focus Electric (105 MPGe): Best Compact Car

The blue oval has its own green warrior. Ford Focus compact cars outsold every other nameplate in the world for the past two years, but what gets less press is the fact its electric model tops the compact class in fuel economy. EPA estimates peg the Focus Electric at 110 MPGe city (99 MPGe highway) with a range of 76 miles. Getting around in the Focus costs about $0.96 per 25 miles, while the MSRP after federal rebate comes in below $28,000. Factor in the $9,000 in fuel savings the EPA counts as available over five years and the cost difference versus the base gas model ($16,810) is negligible. The only difference would be the 2,500 gallons of gas you wouldn’t use over that five-year span.

Cost to Buy: $27,670
Savings over 5 years: $9,000

SmartForTwoElectricDrive

5. Smart Electric Drive Coupe/Convertible (107 MPGe): Best Two-Seater

Though Smart cars may be the reason people considered electric cars too embarrassing to drive, the efficient little guys claim the title of best two-seater economy with an EPA-estimated 107 MPGe. That average includes 122 MPGe city, which is where the SmartForTwo coupe ($25,000) or convertible ($28,000) make the most sense. As the smallest car and the only EV that comes with a convertible option, Smart can claim several titles beyond that of two-seater with the highest efficiency. It’s also the most affordable with a $17,500 MSRP after factoring in the federal rebate. A Smart can notch 68 miles on a full charge and costs about $0.96 to power every 25 miles.

Cost to Buy: $17,500
Savings over 5 years: $9,000

NissanLeaf(2)

4. Nissan Leaf (114 MPGe): Best Midsize Car

The EPA may stretch the bounds of the imagination when it calls the Nissan Leaf a midsize car, but every goverment agency has its rules and standards. In whichever class it belongs, the Leaf gets an impressive 114 MPGe and has a range of 84 miles on a full charge, according to the EPA. That translates to a cost of $0.90 per 25 miles of operation, which brings fuel savings over five years to more than $9,000 over standard 2014 midsize cars that average 23 mpg. Ovet the years, Leaf owners have been very satisfied with the EV that often tops the sales leader board.

Cost to Buy: $21,480
Savings over 5 years: $9,250

Fiat500e

3. Fiat 500e (116 MPGe): Best Mini Compact Car

Fiat has always done small cars well, so it’s no surprise it pulled off an electric mini compact the EPA rated the most efficient in its class. With 116 MPGe and 87 miles of range ($0.87 per 25 miles), the cost of owning a Fiat 500e will become affordable as soon as you get a few hundred miles under your belt. In fact, Fiat reminds consumers about the potential to enjoy another $5,500 in rebates beyond the federal tax credit of $7,500. This little car also has a little of the Italian flair you won’t find in a Smart or Leaf.

Cost to Buy: $24,300
Savings over 5 years: $9,500

Honda Fit EV

2. Honda Fit EV (118 MPGe): Best Small Wagon

Cars like the Honda Fit EV are best for city driving, so it’s noteworthy when the EPA quotes its most efficient small wagon at 132 city MPGe. You’d have to go a long way into town before worrying about a charge. In fact, the 2014 Fit EV gets 82 miles of electric range at a cost of $0.87 per 25 miles, second-best on this list. The only drawback to the Fit is its availability in lease only. While some tax rebates may still be available, the waiting list to get behind the wheel is proving to be an obstacle.

Cost: $259/month (available on lease only)
Savings over 5 years: $9,500

Chevrolet Spark EV

1. Chevy Spark EV (119 MPGe): Best Subcompact Car

General Motors may be best known in the EV world for its Chevy Volt, the plug-in electric car with a range-extending gas motor. The new Cadillac ELR runs on the same powertrain as the Volt, which gets around 35 miles on electric power before switching to the gas engine. Its 2014 Chevy Spark EV (available in limited edition quantities in California and Oregon) blows that figure out of the water with 119 MPGe, the best of any car. At a cost of $0.84 per 25 miles, it is also the cheapest car to run in terms of fueling.

Only the Smart car can play in this sub-$20K price point for cars topping their respective classes in fuel efficiency. One fun fact about the Spark EV that should make the potential of the EV industry clear: Sparks pack 400 lb-ft of torque, which is more pull than the the Ferrari 458 Italia can provide.

Cost to Buy: $19,185
Savings over 5 years: $9,500

More from Wall St. Cheat Sheet: